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Abdullah: US, Afghanistan in 'New Chapter' of Relations

Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah, speaks while State Secretary John Kerry, right and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, listen, during a dinner reception at the Department of State, in Washington, Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said Afghanistan and the United States have begun "a new chapter" in their relations, as he and President Ashraf Ghani continue their first visit to the U.S. since the formation of a power-sharing government.

The leaders have met with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other top officials in what Abdullah described as substantive discussions in Washington.

"It was a unique event and it will have impact, enduring impact, on the continuation of good relations between both countries," he told VOA's "TV Ashna" on Wednesday.

The positive impression is a marked contrast to the often strained relations between U.S. officials and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Abdullah said that when he and Ghani took office in September, "new hopes were raised" both among the Afghan people and the country's partners around the world.

He also discussed Obama's decision to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of the year, saying the U.S. leader felt after multiple rounds of consultations that the troop level was "necessary for the success of Afghanistan."

"From one side, there is progress and the security forces of Afghanistan have shown their capabilities and capacity in dealing with the challenges that we are faced with," Abdullah said. "From the other side, there were shortcomings, which need continued support at least during 2015."

On Tuesday, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani told VOA that "the environment is there" for peace talks with the Taliban, and that the government hoped negotiations would begin "in the coming days."

When asked about the role China could play in the peace process, Abdullah noted Wednesday that China has good relations with Pakistan and said Chinese officials have discussed the necessity of Pakistan in helping bring the Taliban into negotiations.

"China has certain leverages," Abdullah said. "Provided it uses those leverages, they can be helpful."

On Iran, which borders Afghanistan to the west, Abdullah said about the ongoing nuclear negotiations that it is in the interest of Afghanistan for the countries giving it assistance to have more stable relations between each other.

"Less tensions will be helpful as far as the situation in Afghanistan is concerned," he said. "Hopefully we will see positive changes in that regard."

Abdullah is due to further discuss the future of U.S.-Afghan relations Thursday in an address at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Ghani will be in New York for a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after giving his own address Wednesday to the U.S. Congress.